Sunday, December 16, 2018

Bell, Book & Candle—Bag & Baggage Productions—Hillsboro, OR

“Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered”

This sly comedy from the 50’s, is written by John Van Druten and directed by Scott Palmer (B&B’s Founding Artistic Director).
  It is playing at their space in The Vault Theatre, 350 E. Main St., in downtown Hillsboro, through December 23rd.  For more information, go to their site at

The above song title pretty well summarizes the play’s plot, but only scratches the surface of the cauldron from which it emerges.
  The title of the play is a euphemism for the exorcism of demons and witches.  But, have no fear, this is not a horror story of the white (Wicca) or dark (Black Magic) arts, but a love story.  But the underlying whiff of this brew does speak of prejudice, as Van Druten was a gay author, in a world that shunned such folks.  And so, when seeing this, reflect on any kind of group that has been ostracized by our society because of color, religion, race, mental/physical challenges, gender and sextual preferences, et. al….and we still have a long road ahead of us on these issues.
If you see some similarities to a certain popular TV show back when, called “Bewitched,” they are from the same batter.
  In this incarnation, we have a somewhat lonely, young witch, Gillian (Jessi Walters), who, although able to summon just about anything, has never really felt…Love (according to some unwritten rules, if a witch did feel that, she would lose her powers, crying has the same effect).  But she does have a yen for a certain young publisher, Shep (Peter Schuyler), and her eccentric aunt (Kymberli Colbourme), has discovered some papers of his that reveals his personal history, which only draws Gillian more toward him, initially as more of an amusement than anything serious.
And so, witchcraft weaves its spell on them.
  She even helps him in his business by enticing a famous writer, Sidney (Joey Copsey), into this web.  Her fey brother, Nicky (Norman Wilson), also gets into the act with some unintended consequences.  A showdown is inevitable (wands at twenty paces?) and the ensuing result…well, you’ll just have to see it, won’t you?!
I was particularly interested in Palmer’s stylized approach to this play, as it sounds much like a Noel Coward style, with quick retorts, animated gestures and expressions and clipped dialogue, which works very well with this script and cast.
  Also, it is done in the round (meaning that the audience surrounds the set), which means sweeping, circular blocking for the actors, which also lends itself nicely to the style of the play.  In other words, it all blends smoothly into a perfect pate’ of delightful delicacies.
Palmer knows exactly what he’s doing (as he always does) and has the cast with just the right stuff.
  Colbourme is wonderful, as always, and Wilson is marvelous as the unscrupulous brother.  All is well and good with this splendid group in this entertaining showcase.
I recommend this play.
  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Zoozoo—Imago Theatre—SE Portland

Let a Smile be your Umbrella…

This family-friendly production is created by Jerry Mouawad & Carol Triffle (co-founders of Imago).  It is playing at their space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (off Burnside), through January 6th.  For more information, go to their site at or for tickets, call 503-231-9581.

…to shield against the dimming background of a dreary world.  And what a better space to spend a couple of hours, than with the imagination of Imago.  No language barrier here (as there is essentially no dialogue), or a barrier on your imagination, either.  From the Poles of North and South, with a Polar Bear family bracing against winter’s wrath, or Penguins playing musical chairs (where even the audience isn’t immune in this game); to the smallest of the small of bug-eyed insects, butterflies and the enigmatic Larvabatic; to hefty hippos fighting over covers in their too tiny bed; to even the delights of what amusements can be found in sheets of paper, or the mysteries inside a paper bag; and more…they are unique, jaw-dropping, bamboozling and will take you on a journey that you will never forget!

And not only will you visit these wonders of the imagination, along with curious cats, active accordions, floundering frogs, and avid anteaters, but you’ll be taken on a mysterious ride with a Magic Cloth (Michael Curry & Co.) that will awaken a girl and boy and a dog’s imagination to the wonders of believing that  if a red piece of cloth can fly, what other possibilities are there hidden within the heart and mind, if one just…believes!

I couldn’t possibly describe the events that will transpire for an audience, as you really do have to see it to believe it.  But the masks are as creative as any C/G or animated film; the costumes lush as any from a Royal setting; the sound effects uncannily convincing; the lighting (Jeff Forbes), from spots, to mood, to washes, enlighten the atmosphere; and original music (Katie Griesar) completes the illusions, carrying a being gently from one destination easily to another.  And the cast is exemplar (Kaician Jade Kitko, Mark Mullaney, Bryan Smith, Laura Loy, Fiely Matias and Stephanie Woods)!

And what can you say about the directors and creators, Mouawad & Triffle, as words are so inadequate.  You can be assured that whatever they do, will be nothing like you’ve ever seen before, and it will be done professionally.  I don’t pretend to understand some of the concepts often but it doesn’t matter, because images will come (right or wrong) as my imagination has been awakened and exercised.  We seem to exist in an electronic vacuum now, in which the humanity in us is being sucked out.  This show, and others they do, seeks to put that humaneness back into the world by imploring us to expand our horizons.  I applaud them!

This show is not to be missed and, regardless of your background or language, this a delight for the whole family.  Obviously, I highly recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

It’s a Wonderful Life—Artists Rep—NW Portland

      Miracle at Bedford Falls 

    This live radio production is adapted for the stage, from the classic film, by Joe 
Landry and directed by Beth Harper.  It is playing at the NWCT space, 1819 NW Everett St. (parking is a real challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly), through December 30th.  For more information, go to their site at

    Miracles, Magic and Dreams coming true, seem to be in short supply these days.  At one time you could reach out your Imagination and find exotic creatures—unicorns, dragons, mermaids, etc., and magical places—Neverland, Shangra-La, Camelot, et. al., just around the corner, when in need of a safe place to store your dreams.  But we may have looked too far afield, when they could be found in our own Americana and Folklore.  We have here our own Grover’s Mills, Sleepy Hollow, Walton Mountain, and, yes, Bedford Falls, to rest our minds from the weary burden of that dreaded state called—Reality.

    Once Upon a Time…there was a sleepy, little town, of no real consequence, that was having their lives swallowed up by the twin beasts of Progress and Greed, in the guise of a demon named, Potter (David Bodin).  But one man stood in his way of total domination, George Bailey (Chris Harder).  He owned the Building and Loan Bank, in which many of the mortgages of the town-folk were stored.

    But early on, George really had no real plans of running a business.  He was going to earn a college degree, then travel the world.  But Reality raised its ugly head and he was forced, through several circumstances, to stay and run the family bank.  He married a school sweetheart named, Mary (Susannah Mars), had kids…but the loss of his dreams and the burden of everyday life was taking its toll on him and so he is faced with jumping from a bridge and ending it all.

    But miracles sometimes do happen and an angel named, Clarence (Jimmy Garcia), intercedes and gives him a glimpse of this town had he never been born.  The people and township have now changed, and good friends, like the town flirt, Violet (Alyssa Longoria), is no longer a proper lady, his mother (Victoria Schindler), runs a cheap, boarding house, his uncle and partner, Billy (Garcia, again), is not his old self anymore, and the old make-up of small town America has changed dramatically.  The outcome?  Well, I assume just about everybody has seen the movie at some point, which is why I revealed some plot points briefly, earlier, but still I won’t give the ending away.

    What is truly amazing and, perhaps, the real miracle, is the fact that about fifty characters (and voices) are played by six actors and one terrific Foley (sound effects) artist (Leslie North).  They also sing and play musical instruments—talk about talent!  This is presented as a live, radio play during the 40’s, complete with commercials, an announcer (Bodin, again), pre-show, Christmas songs and ourselves as the radio studio audience.  Harper has worked a small miracle herself in assembling this production in a short period of time.  And every one of the cast members is stellar!

    I know the story well, having seen other radio productions over the years, and the classic film more than once.  But, I admit, even now, I was still moved to tears by the end.  And, as far as the Fairy Tale beginning, it would end usually with “…and they lived happily ever after.”  But that was then, this is now.  And so, perhaps, the best one can say, is…they lived…hopefully…ever after!”  And don’t look “too high up or far away” for miracles, they have always been with us, within, inside our own hearts.  We just have to Believe…!

    I highly recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.  Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

In the Wake—Profile Theatre—SW Portland

           Blind Spots

    This drama is written by Lisa Kron and directed by Josh Hecht (Profile’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at the Artist Reps space, 1515 SW Morrison St., through December 16th.  For more information, go to their site at

    The above areas mentioned, cannot be seen by ourselves, but often by others.  A good way to relieve yourself of them, is to take Harper Lee’s advice, via Atticus Fitch, when faced with trying to see other perspectives, and that is to get inside another’s person’s shoes and walk around in them a bit.  That way your own, perhaps, narrow point of view, will be expanded.

    We currently have a world at large that is rampant with these “blind spots,” only seeing things from their own perceptions and insisting that everyone should see them the same way…either “my way or the highway,” as the saying goes.  Admittedly, compromising is not an easy road to traverse, but a necessary one for survival nowadays.

    Ellen (Beth Thompson) seems trapped in the Bush Jr. era of this political spectrum.  She is so focused as to what makes sense, and doesn’t, she may be losing focus on what really matters in life.  She has a very accommodating boyfriend, Danny (Chris Murray), who worships the ground she walks on.  His sister, Kayla (Danielle Weathers), and her wife, (Laurie (Alissa Jessup), live in the same tenement building and are good friends.  Danny and Laurie, in particular, have a unique, sparring relationship, to be envied.

    They have a visit over Thanksgiving from Ellen’s best friend, Judy (Jane Bement Geesman), who has been doing missionary work in Africa and has a very different view of the world than Ellen’s.  Soon, Judy’s niece, Tessa (Tamera Lyn), will be staying with Judy, which only makes the relationships among all more tense.  And finally, there is Amy (Jamie M. Rea), a gay former classmate of Ellen’s, and they become lovers.  “Now, the spring is wound up tight…,” perhaps too tight, as things began to unravel…and dramatic changes are inevitable.  And, as one character queries, when does falling feel like flying (or, perhaps, vice versa)?

    Can’t really tell you more, as the dynamics of the roles and dialogue say it so much better.  The acting by the whole team is exceptional, as well Hecht’s direction.  The characters are so well-developed that you feel you are eavesdropping on some intimate conversations.  Rea and Geesman were particular favorites of mine.  But the script, I feel, needs some cutting and updating, as some of the issues of that time are still with us, and could be pulled forward in time, rather than being stuck as a dramatic piece in just one era.

    I recommend this show, especially for the acting!  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Speed-the-Plow--Asylum Theatre—SE Portland

      Souls For Sale!

    This dark comedy of David Mamet’s play is directed by Don Alder.  It is playing at the Shoebox space, 2110 SE 10th Ave., through December 23rd.  For more information, go to their site at

    This has all the earmarks of a Faustian fable, in which you sell your soul for fame and wealth and power.  The place—Tinseltown; The Time—Forever and a Day; The Main Characters—Gould (Jason Maniccia, Artistic Director for the company), a promising, mid-executive, production head of a movie company; Fox (Danny Bruno), an aggressive, oily little man with dreams of grandeur; And Karen (Briana Ratterman), an attractive, ambitious secretary, who just wants to carve out a little piece of the American Dream for herself.

    The dilemma—producing an artistic work vs. a commercial piece.  The price—one’s Soul (Integrity, Worth, Morality, etc.,) all the good things that make up a Man.  “What profit a Man if he gains the World, but loses his Soul.”  These three individuals, are a microcosm, perhaps, of this Industry (and the business world, too).  As they step to the edge of the Abyss, and look down into its depths, they may have been surprised to find that something was looking back at them, also!  And, as they teetered there, to take the plunge, or not, they chose…ah, but you’ll just have to see it for yourselves, won’t you, to discover the outcome?!

    I’ve given you a nutshell, as to the story, but Mamet is a writer that needs to be heard to be savored.  His rapid-fire, over-lapping dialogue (in which he is manic as to an actor uttering every single stutter, pause and hic-cup in his phrasing) and, thus, one needs to see/hear it to appreciate this master.  And, as for authenticity in his story, he, himself, has been on the inside tract as to his material getting produced, so he knows from whence he speaks.

    Also, a personal note, I have written plays/screenplays, too, and one time was lucky enough to know someone who knew a reader at a studio, so I sent her my script.  She thoroughly enjoyed it, she said, but told me the secret to getting a screenplay optioned was to mirror the format of what was financially successful the year before.  That last thought is reiterated in his script, too.  The moral is then, I suppose, to be a copycat (or lemming) and follow the like-minded over the precipice.

    Alder and his cast certainly understand Mamet’s format and, I’m sure, he would be impressed with this production.  The cast is outstanding and I don’t envy them in learning his lines.  This is an intimate setting and I felt that I was intruding on their space, as the characters were so immersed and believable in their roles.  Each one of their characters has a hidden self, which will be revealed by the end of the play.  Maniccia, a man in charge and sure of his direction, or….  Bruno, a loyal friend, who has an “offer you cannot refuse” for his buddy, but….  And Ratterman, the newbie, who champions for the artist, until….  All excellent!

    I highly recommend this play.  There were only three people in the house the night I saw it and they deserve full houses for this!  Don’t miss this one.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Not Another Christmas Letter!—Portland Musical Theater Company—N. Portland

    These true-to-life musical snippets, from Christmas moments, are written and arranged by Paul Cozby and Laura Bergquist and directed and produced by Deanna Maio.  It is playing at the Peninsula Odd Fellows Lodge (upstairs), 4834 N. Lombard St., through December 23rd.  For more information, go to their site at

    The authors have certainly peeked in on my, and some friends, Christmas memories, over the years, as they are about as true as you can get.  They encompass the entire range of feelings, I believe, from sending (and getting) those impersonal, typed Christmas letters to, losing a loved one, to buying for a loved one and kids being too-informed in this day and age.

    But, personally, I miss the Christmas’s that never were for me, those of my grand-parent’s days, as pictured in Capote’s, “A Christmas Memory,” or “The Walton’s Christmas.”  Somehow, the simpler times, those that just relied on home-made dinners and decorations and presents, and family and neighbors.  But, gone are the days, I suppose, but also missing, I believe, is the True Spirit of Giving from the Heart.  A Christmas memory I never realized, perhaps, but oddly missed.

    Here, an ensemble cast of four (Chris Bartell, Bronwyn Baz, Jeff Donaldson-Forbes and Carissa Zubricky), playing about 40 roles, recreate short scenes of Christmas preparations across the Nation.  The scenes and songs encompass putting a positive spins on one’s impersonal Christmas letters; dealing with Black Friday, long lines and sold-out items; a clever duet by the men, trying to find just “the right present” for that special lady; and a hauntingly delivered moment by Zubricky about being single on such a holiday.

    Also, of course, there are those agonizing, infamous Christmas Family Portraits that we all had to sit through; memories of Christmas’s Past, touching song by Donaldson-Forbes, after a loved one has recently passed; an amusing duet-duel by the ladies, of dealing with in-laws during this family season; and a not-so-friendly competitions with the neighbors over outside Christmas decorations.

    And, who can forget the 12 days of Christmas, with a modern twist; what would happen if Christmas trees could talk about their experiences over the years; when kids become so educated that such classics as “Twas the Night…” comes under scrutiny; and those horrible assemblies of toys with thousands of parts; and reflecting on Christmas Eves, as the ending of the Season.  And then it begins all over again for the next year…. 

    All of which performed by some very talented singers/actors.  And Maio has, as always, a keen ear and eye in choosing material and casts, as she does here.  She has deliberately not picked a traditional Christmas story that has been done to death, so see this one, as it’s a West Coast Premiere, and expand your Christmas tradition a bit, it’ll be worth it!

    A side note, this might spur you to reflect yourself on your own memories and habits during this Season.  It did make me think, as mine are of Christmas’s that never were (long story…but I don’t remember the first 10 years of my life) and so I live my Christmas memories vicariously…and so, became a writer (of sorts) in which one can create their own realities as a storyteller.  Not a bad trade-off, I believe.  What’s your story(ies)…?!

    I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Everybody—Artists Rep—SW Portland

The Meaning of Life…a Life of Meaning

    This imaginative play is written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and directed by Dámaso Rodriguez and Jessica Wallenfels.  It is playing at their space, 1515 SW Morrison St., through December 30th.  For more information, go to their site at

    This is a reworking of a morality tale, “Everyman,” from a few thousand years ago, by an anonymous source.  There is also a film from the 30’s or 40’s called, “The Story of Mankind,” which was a semi-comic take covering some of the same territory, in which God (Ralph Richardson) is disappointed in Mankind and calls for a representative of it (Ronald Coleman) to defend its history, and which the Devil (Vincent Price) takes the opposing stance.

    Also, a side note, which may relate, is when Dr. Stephen Hawking was asked whether there was other intelligent life in the universe, his insightful answer was, what makes you think any has been found here?!  And, to carry that a step further, what if those visitors have been here and found earthling so backward in their development, they just passed us by.  I think both theories should give us pause.

    But, in this case, God (Sarah Lucht), is also disappointed in Mankind’s lack of progress and misuse of the Gifts of Reasoning Power and Free Will they were granted.  So, he/she calls Death (Ted Rooney), to gather Everybody (Michael Mendelson), for a Day of Reckoning, in which he/she must explain their justification for their actions.  Everybody is allowed to bring forth supporters of its actions and so the search is on for them.

    There is Family, of course, and Friendship and Good Times and Material Things, et. al., as well as Understanding and Strength, etc. (all played by different actors on different performances including:  Sara Hennessy, John San Nicolas, Andrea Vernae, and Barbie Wu).  Everybody feels that they would be good companions to accompany him/her on this journey with Death, but will that be so?

Everybody also encounters Love (Falynn Burton), as perhaps an ally, as well as Time (Eva Rodriguez) and an oddity called, All the Shitty Evil Things (Alex Blesi), that one has done, too.  A motley crew, to say the least, and you’ll just have to see it to discover the outcome for Everybody (Us)….

    This story is all played out on a type of game board with masks, puppetry, some clever lighting and an erratic Dance of Death (akin to Bergman’s one at the end of his film, “The Seventh Seal”), arms and legs all akimbo, reaching out spasmodically for ? in this fateful journey.

    High marks for this company, and especially its two directors, in what must have been (and will continue to be) a roller-coaster ride like none most actors have, or will, encounter in actually having to learn the whole script and play each night a different part, depending on the luck of the draw (possibly like Life itself?). 
    And Mendelson, as the title character this time out, is tremendous!  He is a consummate artist anyway, whether directing or acting, and this a crowning achievement for him.  As good as everyone else is onstage, he is impossible not to focus on much of the time.  Kudos to all!

    I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Who’s Holiday!—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

“It’s Getting to Look a Lot Like [#&!*^%!] Christmas”

    This adult comedy is written by Matthew Lombardo and directed by Donald Horn.  It is playing at their space in The Sanctuary, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot to the West of the bldg.), through December 15th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

    It’s time for a little rhyme with Christmastime upon us.  In this case, the most innocent of all creatures to represent it---Cindy Lou Who (Daria Eliuk), now all grown up, from Dr. Seuss’s Grinch stories.  In case you don’t know, The Grinch is a type of green goblin creature that steals Christmas from Whoville but, being captivated by a little blonde girl named, Cindy Lou, his heart increases in size and he returns all the goodies he has stolen. 

    Well, if you think you’ve heard the whole story, folks, hold on to your hats, ‘cause you ain’t heard nuthin’ yet!  It seems that little girl is now an adult and has been living in a trailer park for some time.  She, at this point, is expecting some folks for a Christmas party, so chooses to entertain us with the tale of her life until they arrive.  And what a life it has been!  Closer in content to black lagoons than Disney castles.

    Really can’t tell you too much without spoiling the plot, but it seems that she and the Grinch became friends…until they weren’t.  And her close relationship with her parents, and other citizens of Whoville was solid…until it wasn’t.  And Mr. G’s faithful dog, Max, became a thing of the (re)past.  And her only solace in recent years has become a distant memory.  And so, in short, she is alone at Christmastime, with only her bitter-sweet memories for company…that is until she discovers…but that would be telling, wouldn’t it?!

    These holidays are, as even Dickens concluded, as well, with his classic tale of redemption, something that science can’t measure, something from the heart.  And it is true what is said, that giving raises the spirit much more than receiving.  And sometimes, that Giving, doesn’t involve riches of the pocketbook, but just being there and having a sympathetic ear for a troubled soul.  So, with all the turmoil that surrounds us now, we might look to the innocent for guidance.  It is said that, a child shall lead us, and so, as young, Anne Frank, surmised, when immersed in the horrors of the Nazi regime, “…I still believe that people are basically good.”  Out of the mouth of babes…!

    Once again, Horn has given us something to ponder, as well as entertaining us.  It may be irreverent, and through the backdoor, so to speak, but there are lessons to be learned here, too.  And Daria is amazing as the title character.  She is witty, biting, thoughtful, vulnerable and, quite simply, seems an awfully lot like us and people we know.  She is a treasure! 

    In tribute to the verse script, perhaps, a parting thought:
Cindy Lou!  Cindy Lou!
How blue!  How blue!
Does the Past define you,
Or the Future,
As to the Who you want to be?!
Or, if rhyming is not your timing,
And Facts more your tact…heed these words:
“Be brave.  Be curious.  Be determined.”  (Dr. Stephen Hawking)

    I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

A Christmas Carol, the Musical—Stumptown Stages—downtown Portland

“What the Dickens…!”




    This classic tale by Dickens, is adapted as a musical for the stage by Alan Menken (music), Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Mike Ockrent & Ahrens (book).  It is directed by Stumptown’s Founding Artistic Director, Kirk Mouser, choreographed by Sara Parker and musical direction by Adam Young.  It is playing at the Brunish Theatre (4th floor), 1111 SW Broadway, through December 23rd.  For more information, go to their site at

    This may be the most faithful adaption of this oft-done story of redemption.  Many of Dicken’s original dialogue is included and it stays pretty close to his tale.  There have been many other animated, musical and non-musicals versions of this moving story.  And many Scrooges, including Bill Murray, Michael Caine, George C. Scott, Henry Winkler, Sterling Hayden, Albert Finney, Jim Backus, Jim Carrey, et. al. but the best by far is Alaister Sim in the 1950’s British version.  Perhaps the strangest, but excellent one, was Hayden in the Hallmark Hall of Fame incarnation in the 60’s called, “Carol For Another Christmas,” produced by the United Nations, in part.

    The story should be familiar by now, that of an aging, lonely miser, Ebenezer Scrooge (Gary Wayne Cash), a money-lender, who has been steadily slipping into the abyss of self-pity and loathing, for several years, much to the dismay of his ill-used clerk, Bob Cratchit (Austin Peters), who has a crippled son, Tiny Tim (Carter Christianson).

     But on this fateful Christmas Eve, he is visited by his old, equally-miserly, now deceased partner, Jacob Marley (Mark Pierce), who warns him of dire consequences in the after-life if he doesn’t change his evil ways.  And so, he is offered to view his life in the Past (Kelly Stewart), the Present (Pip Kennedy) and a possible Future (Hannah Sapitan), as his spirit guides, who will lead him.

    He discovers his younger, greedy self (Zachary Johnsen), divesting himself of his lady love, Emily (Josephine McGehee) and sliding toward darkness.  Then he views the outside world of the present, seeing both joy with his well-to-do nephew Fred (Evan Tait) & friends, and Cratchit’s family, poor in dollars, perhaps, but rich in spirit.  Then his future is revealed as pretty dismal if he doesn’t repent…any guesses as to what happens?!

    Much of the dialogues is sung.  Some of the stand-out numbers are “Link by Link” (Pierce), “Lights of Long Ago” (by the amazing, Stewart), the haunting, “A Place Called Home” (Cash, Johnsen, McGehee and Lana Sage), the rousing, “Abundance and Charity” (Kennedy), and the touching, “God Bless Us Everyone” (Company).  And major kudos to Mouser, as this could have been (and probably was) a nightmare to coordinate with the many scene changes but, as always, he has a masterful eye for staging, as well as the casting, as his company is super here.

    Cash is always good in everything I’ve seen him in and an asset to every production.  His Scrooge is more middle-aged than most interpretations, which I liked, as it gives the impression he still has many more years to contribute in a positive way to those around him.  And I was blown away by Stewart, as the Spirit of the Past.  She has an amazing voice and her character was downright charming and someone who, when in her presence, you’d be forced to smile.  She has already accumulated a pretty impressive history on the stage and I predict even more success will come her way!

    Clever set & lighting (Demetri Pavlatos), authentic costumes (Margaret Louise Chapman), top music (Young & Co.), dazzling dance numbers (Parker), spirited direction (Mouser) and a terrific cast, all add up to a perfect holiday show for the whole family.  
    I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Care of Trees—Enso theatre ensemble—SE Portland

                      Root of it All

    This two-character drama is written by E. Hunter Spreen and directed by Caitlin Lushington.  It is playing at the Shaking-the-Tree space, 823 SE Grant St., through December 2nd.  For more information, go to their site at

    What is it all about?  Why are we here?  Expansive questions…no simple answers.  But, to approach it All—Life “…be brave, be curious, be determined…” (Stephen Hawking).  In other words, perhaps, take a chance on Life and live it to the fullest, as if there are no tomorrows.  And consider, we, indeed, may only “…be such things as dreams are made on…” so make this one the grandest dream of all!

    As in the case of Georgia (Megan Gotz) and Travis (Jon Gennari), they meet (accidentally or pre-determined?) at a cocktail party.  They banter, stalk each other, explore the sexual possibilities and, finally, throw their hats into the ring called Love.  They probe each other, test the waters, grow together, evolve and explore the highs and lows…ebbing and flowing with whatever the tides…the Game of Life…may bring.  Tears and laughter cancel each other out, no points one way or the other for that, but the goal is scored when they complete the match together, a bit more worn, perhaps, but resolves in tact.  Both winners.

    This is a complicated and intricate plot of two souls finding their purpose.  Can’t really give you details without giving away aspects that an audience should discover.  And it is simply done, with a couple of chairs, a bed, some incidental props and visuals…but it will cover a lifetime for them.  I admire greatly these two actors, as they had to exposed their souls to reach the Truths embedded in this trek of two lives enmeshed.  Kudos to them!

    And, Lushington, has amazingly worked out a roadmap for their journey that, as sweeping as it is, doesn’t leave you floundering as to when and where they are.  She also seems to have a knack for guiding, not only the audience, but specific details of the emotional paths the actors should take.  This is a show for adults but it’s obvious it’s also a very personal exploration, a catharsis, perhaps, for the author and, possibly, viewers as well.

    I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Stories of Hope—Playback Theater—SW Portland

“Hope Springs Eternal”

    This theater company only plays for one performance, about four times a year.  The space they use is called Resound NW, 1532 SW Jefferson St.  It’s a large room and was standing-room only for last night’s show, so I would advise getting there early.  Their next event is January 26th.  For more information, go to their site at

    In these troubled times, we truly do need that “H” word in our vocabulary.  And how to accomplish that?  Try, in essence, what this troupe does…as Harper Lee would exclaim, through Atticus Fitch, you need to put on another’s shoes and walk around in them a bit to understand other points of view.  This group is part Improv team and story-tellers, part cathartic and part therapeutic, in approach.  Their main thrust is to take stories from the audience, usually around a specific theme (in this case, Hope) and act out, or playback, your story.  Intriguing idea.

    A side note, I myself, in my early days of theatre at, at what was then called Southern Oregon College in Ashland, had a space on campus, run by a minister, in which a band of actors did Improv comedy in his “church,” a coffee house called, The Key (as he felt the key to harmony was dialogue).  It was a great training ground for an actor, as we collected ideas or words from the audience and then performed skits around them (such as they do here, in essence).  Afterwards, we would mingle with the audience and had some pretty healthy discussions about all sorts of topics.  What we all came away with, I believe, was a better understanding of ourselves and our neighbors.

    In this incarnation, a very talented troupe of 3 women and 1 male, an emcee/host and a guitarist, were able to successfully entertain, enlighten and educate a group of relative strangers to awaken to a world out there, that is better when shared with others, and then concerns we personally have might not seem so overwhelming.  I wish I could give you the names of the people involved but there was no printed material passed out so you’ll just have to go to their sits for that information.

   I, myself, have mentored young girls in theatre by trying to give them motivation and direction, since the educational system, at large, seems to de-emphasize the Arts in schools.  (The best program around this area to train youth in the performing arts, I believe, is Oregon Children’s Theatre and its classes, overseen by Dani Baldwin, Education Director).  “Attention must be paid…” if our Youth are expected to make things better, in this battered world we are leaving them.  And events, like Playback produces, are seeking out artistic avenues for expressions of ourselves and the young, might just tip the scale from behaving like lemmings, to leading the charge to positive possibilities for all.

   You owe it to yourselves to experience their wares and “mine the unknown.” If you do choose to participate, tell them Dennis sent you.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Diary of Anne Frank—Battle Ground Drama Club—Battle Ground, WA

Growing Pains

    This classic true story is written for the stage by Francis Goodrich & Albert Hackett (from the diary of Anne Frank) and is directed by Stephan “Cash” Henry.  It is playing in The Lair in the high school, 300 W. Main St., in Battle Ground, at 7 pm through November 17th.  For more information, contact the director,

    There are old adages that go something like this:  It’s my way or the highway and, if we don’t correct the mistakes of the past, we are doomed to repeat them.  Both proven true in this divided, derisive atmosphere we are now living in, as we adults, in our infantile behaviors, still have not learned to live in harmony with others and Nature.  And the losers in these decisions—our Youth…and their/our Future?  But there is a trickle of hope in this leaky faucet, with the MeToo Movement, and the Youth that openly oppose unregulated gun ownership, and those young folks suing the government over polluting the atmosphere for future generation.  You go, gang!

    This present production of a young teenage girl, who didn’t survive the Nazi regime, has taught us an enduring lesson, as one of the final entries in her diary proclaims that she still believed, in spite of all the horrors she witnessed, that people are basically good.  It should shame us all!  And it seems to be through the young that we see the world, from the eyes of the innocent, the real Truth of situations. 

    Such films/books as “The Summer of my German Soldier,” “Life is Beautiful,” “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” and this story, are some examples of the young observing that “Jungle” we have created for ourselves.  On a personal note, while teaching some K-5 students during the close call for the election of the President, between Bush and Gore, I asked them what would they do if they were faced with that situation.  One child said, they should share the Office… “out of the mouth of babes…!”

    For almost two years Anne Frank (Alyssa Carr), a precocious teen, her older but shier sister, Margot (Anabelle Melton), their wise Father, Otto (Killian Griffin) and stern mother, Edith (Maria Wetzbarger), are holed up in hiding in an attic area of her father’s business.  They are joined by some friends, the gluttonous Mr. Van Daan (Nathan Lenz), his snobby wife, Mrs. Van Daan (Mackenzie Linville) and their somewhat reclusive son, Peter (Luke Henrikson), who eventually strikes up a relationship with Anne.

    Added to this mix is the fussy dentist, Mr. Dussel (Chase Wrightson), and the go-betweens for them to the outside world, Mr. Kraler (Mason Gardner), Otto’s partner and Miep (Trinity Weaver), a special friend through all this conflict (only Otto and Miep will survive for some years after).  And there are briefly some Nazi soldiers that invade their space, Jerry Balch, Tanner Opdahl, Kenny Harmon and Jaden Denfeld.  The play consists of how these differing individuals manage to live together in tight quarters for these several months.  The sad irony is that this group was on one of the last trains sent to the death camps and Anne died of disease just days before the camps were liberated.

    This is a powerful story (made even more topical by the hate killings in a temple just recently).  Keep in mind that these students were just born this century, so have no personal connection to these events themselves, only pointing out, once again, the powerful tool theatre is to education the young as to past and present historic and cultural events.  Henry is a master at teaching/directing Youth and should be given every support in future endeavors of this kind!  His wife, Sundance Wilson Henry, as the scenic and costume designer, always enhances his productions, too, as she does here.

    The cast seems really invested in this production, as they all create specific characterizations for their roles.  As the two major players, Carr, as Anne, really seems to embody the spirit of the real diarist, and Griffin, as her father, touches us all with his strong presence in this ensemble, and especially in his closing speech…more than a few tears were shed from the audience, I’m sure.

    I recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Pageant—Triangles Productions!--NW Portland

         Glitz, Glamour & Glory

    This musical spoof of beauty pageants has book and lyrics by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly, music by Albert Evans, conceived by Robert Longbottom and directed by Donald Horn.  It is playing at Darcelle XV CLUB, 208 NW 3rd Ave., Sundays, Nov. 11th and 18th at 2 pm.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

    Spoofs of this sort on beauty pageants are not new, there was a film some years ago with Bruce Dern called, “Smile,” and, unintentionally, perhaps, the actual contests themselves have become a sort of self-mockery, with charges of corruption, sexual abuse and, with the current MeToo Movement, perhaps, will fade into the sunset.  But these folks take another slant on it with music, songs (vocal direction, Kristi Foster), and dance (choreographer, Sara Mishler Martins), as well as liberal doses of salty humor.

    I hate to go into too much detail, as so much of the fun is how the audience and judges (chosen from the audience), respond to the outrageous antics.  There is, of course, the Emcee (James Sharinghousen)—eat your heart out, Bert Parks, he’s twice the entertainer that you pretended to be.  And, of course, there’s the stars of the show, the beauties, the finalist in a contest for Queen, it’s sponsored by a beauty products company (so liberal endorsements are freely given…er, demanded). 

    The Beauties, in this case are, Miss West Coast (Collin Carver), not the sharpest knife in the drawer; Mis Industrial NE (Pepe Raphael), a very animated, Hispanic-American, who is the live wire of this grouping; Miss Deep South (Shaun Hennessy), spouting Dixie at every opportunity; Miss Bible Belt (Joe Healy), conducting herself as if an old world, fire & brimstone revivalist;  Miss Great Plains (Jeremy Sloan), the lone model for rural America; and Miss Texas (Kevin Cook), the unabashedly, All-American ambassador.

    And like all good contests of this sort, the contestants had to exhibit certain winning traits to rise to the top and become its Queen.  The categories are:  formal dress (evening gowns); swimsuit; talent (watch for the puppet act, they are a scream); physical fitness (a very active dance number); and a musical chairs activity around a phone, in which the answerer of the hot-line must solve the problem of the caller—probably the most inventive of all the selections.  Really can’t tell you more without being a spoiler.

    This is a fun evening brought to you by the very creative, Don Horn and the perfect setting for this event, generously provided by Darcelle.  And kudos must also go to the clever lighting and sound man, Jason Coffey; terrific wig designs by Jane Holmes/See Jane and costumes (no credit given); and a special shout-out to the wait staff (Leo & Co.), who was a favorite with the audience.  Sharinghousen is always worth seeing in everything he does; Raphael was a hoot; the puppet act by Hennessy almost stole the show; but my over-all favorite was Carver, as the dimmest light bulb in the chandelier who, also, is very notable in every production he’s a part of!

    I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Inherit the Wind—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR

Planet of the Apes?

    The classic trial drama about the famous Scopes’ Monkey Trial of about 100 years ago in the Deep South, is written by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee and directed by Antonio Sonera.  It is playing at their space, 368 S. State St., in Lake Oswego.  For more information, go to their site at

    It’s amazing how many issues are broached in this story.  It addresses religion vs. science, separation of church and state, Evolutionists/Darwinists vs. Creationists, and the freedom of Man to think for himself and to speak his mind.  We are still in some of those struggles even today.

    The story of the proceedings up to the trial are as engaging as the trial itself.  Reportedly, it was all a publicity stunt to garner some revue for this small, Southern town, so they arranged to prosecute an educator for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution to school kids, then informing the two giants of the law world, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, who were to duke it out verbally in court, which means that tourists from all over the country, as well as the news media, including the famous critic, H. L Menken, would swamp this burg and give its economy a much-needed boost.  And the stunt worked beautifully.

    The movie of it starred Spencer Tracy, Fredric March and Gene Kelly, as the three above-mention personas, and a TV adaption had Jason Robards, Kirk Douglas and Tony Randall portraying the same, both quite good.  (I even directed a production of it myself some years back at the Columbia Arts Center.)  And now we have this production, with two giants of the local theatre scene, Allen Nause as the Darrow in carnation, Henry Drummond and Todd Van Voris as the Bryan substitute, Matthew Harrison Brady, a match made in theatre heaven!

    The story has these two titans vying for the constitutional soul, perhaps, of Cates [Scopes] (Jim Vadala), who has dared to teach Darwin to young children in the Bible-belt part of the world.  His only real local support, his girlfriend, Rachel (Olivia Weiss), also happens to be the daughter of the town’s religious leader, Rev. Brown (David Sikking).  On the sidelines, reporting all this, is the newspaper critic, the cynical, Hornbeck (Ian Goodrich).

    But the real meat of the matter occurs in Act II, where Drummond is prevented from calling scientists to explain Darwin’s theories, so he’s forced to fight on the enemy’s own turf, and calls Brady himself to logically explain how things came about on this earth, using only the literal translation of the Bible.  Then the fireworks really begin.  And we, as a viewer/listener may have our own questions by the end of this confrontation.  At the crux of the matter is, perhaps, since God gave Man, Free Will and Reasoning Power, why should he be condemned for using them to think and speak as he chooses?

    This production is both powerful and touching and well-rendered onstage by Sonera.  All the supporting characters do well in filling in the landscape for this major battle.  Goodrich is convincing, as he paints for us the outsider’s perspective on these alarming events.  Vadala, a very talented actor in many productions, is appropriately baffled and at a loss for words, as the creator of this whirlwind of controversy.  And Weiss, as his love interest, is quite touching and believable as a woman caught between two worlds of thought and, although facing an awaking is, perhaps, the future product of a new way of thinking.
But the focus of this production is Nause and Van Voris and both are splendid! 

     They burn up the stage with their predictions of, perhaps, either biblical hellfire, or stoking the sparks of creativity.  It is a high mark in acting and should not be missed!  Van Voris, steadfast in his condemnation of even the thought of thinking “…those things he doesn’t think about.”  And Nause, using his wiles and wits, to expose hypocrisy and yet, willing to concede that there, indeed, may be “…more things in heaven and earth…than are dreampt of in [our] philosophy.”  Truly, it “must give us pause.”

    I highly recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Dreamgirls—Stumptown Stages—Downtown Portland

     Impossible Dreams?

    This dramatic musical has book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, music by Henry Krieger and directed and choreographed by Roger Welch, and musical direction by Adam Young.  It is playing at their space at The Brunish Theatre (4th floor), 1111 SW Broadway, through November 4th.  For more information go to their site at

    This is from a Tony award-winning play, which was made into quite an excellent movie.  What performer(s) hasn’t thought of making it to the top of their profession, with all the fame and fortune, glitter and glamour that seems to go with it.  It is a dream, devoutly to be desired.  Or is it just so much smoke and mirrors…an illusion for hungry artists?   Trappings all.  For all the glitz, there is the gutter, for all the peaks, there are the pits, always evident for those who slip.  And for all the gain, there is the pain.  It’s rarely ever easy and in the end, sacrifices must be made, which could include your friends, family, self-esteem, health and even, your Soul.  So, you must ask yourself the hard question, is it worth it?!

     In the case of the Dreams, Deena (Shahayla Ononalye), Lorrell (Kristin Robinson) and Effie (Julianne Johnson), they will take that journey down the “yellow-brick road” to find their great and powerful dream coming true, or is it just a silly, old man behind a curtain.  Time will tell.  And, perhaps, one should not forget the true treasures offered at the end of that rainbow:  Brains, Heart, Courage and no place like Home.  But to discover their importance, it is necessary to journey beyond and behind the rainbow, as the Dreamgirls do.

     These three, with their ever-faithful, but naïve composer, C. C. (Blake Stone), Effie’s brother, “ease on down” that road from humble beginnings to lofty expectations (and back again).  Their lowly desire is to win a contest at the famed Apollo Theatre and be booked for a week there.  The end result is they get is 10 weeks on the road as back-up singers with the huge star, Jimmy Early (Jarvis Sam).  The golden gates open a crack for them.

     They are welcomed with open arms by Jimmy and his sensible manager, Marty (Amber Cobb).  But into the fray struts the wicked, Curtis (John Devereaux).  His smooth talk and oily ways convince the ladies that he can make them stars.  All they have to do is submit to his control of their lives, both personal and financial, it turns out  In the beginning it is all an innocent Garden of Poppies but, with a snake loose, it will not last long.  Affairs, heartbreak, the replacement of one of the members by Michelle (Jalena Montrond) and betrayal, eventually leads this trio’s triumph into a spiral of sadness.  The end result will be for you to discover.

    The musical road they journey down goes through R&B, Pop, Soul and Disco…from easy listening tunes to hard dancing ones.  And some of the dialogue is sung, much like in an opera.  My favorite numbers were Cadillac Car, Steppin’ to the Bad Side, Dreamgirls and all of Effie’s solos, One Night Only, I Am Changing, and the show-stopping, …I’m Not Going.

    The music (Young) was intense, without overpowering the actors.  And the costumes (designer, Margaret Louise Chapman) were especially exciting, reflecting the changes in color and styles through the years.  Welch was smart in letting the actors and songs carry the story without a lot of elaborate sets, and the dance numbers were reflective of the times.  Well done.

    The performers are all excellent as singers and actors.  But two that stood out for me were Sam as Jimmy, who was a dancer (acrobat?) beyond all expectations and a terrific singer and actor, as well.  A too true character in the fight for the brass ring, never realizing you have to hold onto to it forever, or risk being outshone.  A bravo performance! 

    And one must give a lion’s share of the praise to Johnson in the key role as Effie.  She is extraordinary!  An icon herself as a performer and director, and she shows you why, here.  Her singing in all her numbers was a standout and she’s a pretty damn good actor, too.  And she also does a nice job of layering her performance, so that one does feel sympathy for her but sees her tough side, as well.  She deserved the roar of the crowd after her show-stopping numbers.  She is the heart of this well-conceived production…long may she pulsate!

 I recommend this show, if you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Shivers—Young Professionals Company—NE Portland

              Buried Secrets

    This World Premiere musical, ghost story is written, directed and choreographed by Matthew B. Zrebski.  It is playing at the Y/P Studio of Oregon Children’s Theatre, 1939 NE Sandy Blvd., through November 11th.  For more information, go to their site at

    One’s “salad days” are full of discoveries and angst now, especially with the conventions of social media.  Personal relationships are done from afar, via texting, e-mails, cell phones, and the many other distracting ways of communicating, preventing us from actually touching another human being, or even the outside world, for that matter.  We are, perhaps, like the characters in this play, existing in a Hell of our own making.

    For those of you that might want to put this in some context with familiar surroundings, it does have some common elements to the musical, “Rent,” with a band of like-folks railing against their smothering atmosphere; or, the short story/play, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” with a child’s descent into madness, perhaps; or, the thriller, “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” about a group of teens that are hiding a tragic secret.  All relevant, in some ways, to this story.

    A girl, Vix (Averyl Hartje) is seemingly trapped in a closet in a school by an unknow intruder and her lifeline to the outside world is her cell phone, or is that the purpose of her calls?  An outcast student, Gailen (Isaac Ellingson), is seemingly trying to make contact with each member of this band of brothers/sisters but for what purpose?  And three sets of teens are trapped in a snowstorm and all getting mysterious messages and phone calls, revealing intimate secrets of their lives.  Who’s responsible…and why?

    The pairing of the students are Tala (Ella Carson), a very determined girl, who has a boyfriend, Lionel (David VanDyke), who wants to take their relationship to the “next level.”  Then, there is the gay drug dealer, Shea (Xavier Warner), who has a budding relationship with, Brock (Asher Ross), an emotionally, fragile individual.  And, finally, there is Ravyn (Julia Meyers), a popular girl in school who has formed a bond with Mindy (Kai Tomizawa), a girl going through more than one personal crisis in her life.

    In the end, they will all confront their fears, and secrets will be unearthed.  But, I cannot tell you more without being a spoiler.  Zrebski has written an extraordinary play with songs that give each person their moment to shine…and the do sparkle beautifully!  This is a story that could easily be sent to other educational institutes to be performed, as well as having a life as an Off-Broadway production.

    The set is simple but effective and the visuals (Lucas Welsh) add much to the production.  The acting and singing is first-rate (after all, they are Y/P students, who are always at the top of the class, in my book!).  The women, Carson, Meyers, Hartje and Tomizawa, especially, have powerful voices and nailed their songs.  This is a production with some very heavy material, zeroing in on the modern teens, so be aware of the frankness of these situations.

    And a special shout-out to Dani Baldwin, Education Director at OCT and Y/P, and her staff.  Her students, because of the learning they get here, are the most prepared, in my opinion, for not only a possible career in the Arts, but also Life itself.  They learn to work as a team and build self-confidence, all while groping and grasping for the Gold in a safe environment.  Even the far-off stars are not beyond their reach!

    I highly recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.